Pastry Chef at Harrah’s Resortand Showboat in Atlantic City,Deb Pellegrino took away the chocolatier’s crown and $10,000 on last Sunday’s popular TV series Food Network Challenge®. The challenge for four outstanding pastry chefs from the U.S. and Canada was to create a mythical creature out of chocolate and then have that creature come to life – in eight hours.
Chef Pellegrino, gleaning from her past culinary experience as head crew chef aboard a private yacht for three years, chose to make The Kraken Adventure. What is that – a kraken? In mythical lore, and believed to have been reality as well, kraken (in German means octopus) are legendary sea monsters of gargantuan size thought to dwell primarily in the northern seas around the Scandinavian countries.
Kraken, resembling an enormous octopus, was a sea monster that many early sailors and fisherman reported sightings of all the way back to the 1200’s. It was a terrifying creature that would sometimes attack ships. The myth of the Kraken grew for centuries, much like its cousin the sea serpent. Kraken were said to be the size of a small island (as long as 50 feet from head to the tips of its many tentacles), often even being mistaken for islands themselves. When kraken submerged to the depths of the sea, its enormous whirlpool would take ships and crew down with it.
Chef Pellegino, having traveled the seas from Tahiti and the South Seas to Sweden, Denmark and the Baltics – and believing there are creatures living in the depths of the seas – wanted to portray a kraken’s enormous tentacles taking down a wooden ship
Her showpiece was an overwhelming design, exhibiting her artistry and culinary talent in all areas of judging, which were based on technical merit, theme and artistry. Despite losing time when the show’s gremlins had her sit out for 30 minutes and then having her compressor break down, her focus and composure were exemplary. In creating the Kraken Adventure, Pellegrino was assisted by one of her culinary staff from Showboat, Kelly Mercurio. The amazing movement of the ship as the tentacles wrapped around it to take it down was executed by some very skilled engineers on staff at Harrah’s.
When asked about the challenge, Pellegrino replied that she loves to compete in challenges because she can focus on the one thing that she loves to do. In her career as pastry chef for two large resorts, she is constantly having to multi-task and, as a perfectionist that can be very time consuming. She explains, “What inspires me is working with my hands, being artistic and creative. I love what I do, and it is great satisfaction when you see people’s delight from what you have created for them.”
After graduating from the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, Chef Pellegrino landed her first job as a private chef for a family summering on the Jersey Shore. Upon returning with them to their home in Fort Lauderdale and seeing so many enormous, gorgeous yachts, wanderlust set in. Good fortune and her talent led her to a 204-foot private yacht where she became crew chef for the 18 full time crew members and traveled the world for three years. Returning home in 1999, she became Pastry Chef for a team of 21 who produce all the pastries for 22 outlets at Harrah’s and Showboat. As Pastry Chef, she says she has found her niche combining her background in art with her interest in creating innovative desserts. Certainly, the proof is in the pudding here with her amazing creation of the Kraken Adventure and taking the crown in the Food Network Challenge.
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